I want to define and describe a human type. It is a personality frequently found in the creative classes, especially among writers, but it is also common in religious communities and ideological movements. I am calling this type the Fictive Midas.
Everything a Fictive Midas touches turns to fiction.
The Fictive Midas inhabits a memoir, an unfolding story toward which they are both intimate and dissociated — intimate because it is their own creation about themselves; dissociated because they a character in this story they are telling, while also existing in the background as the one telling it.
This dissociative intimacy pervades their lives, inner and outer.
The inner life of imagination, ideas and emotions, of course, predominates.
For them, there is nothing peculiar about it, because this is the only existence they know. But for those around them, especially people attuned to the self-transcendent reality of other people, a Fictive Midas is unnerving, and the closer they believe themselves to be with them, the more disturbing they become.
This is because, to the Fictive Midas, the outer life is important mainly as source material for their inner lives, and other people are part of the outer world. This causes them to relate to people and things with disturbing disregard, the kind of disregard authors have toward the suffering of the characters they invent.
A friend of a Fictive Midas might from time to time get the feeling that they are not actually fully real to them. Nor is the Fictive Midas really present in the relationship.
There is an alienating barrier — a membrane that separates self from self, and keeps each respective Me in strict parallel, precluding any participation in mutuality, in shared being, in any We. In relations involving a perceptive Fictive Midas, this membrane might develop increasing precision, nuance, even insight — but this is only advanced character development, not interpersonal intimacy. Whatever closeness there seems to be is only a closeness of resemblance between the Fictive Midas’s rendered character and the real person sealed outside. The membrane is impermeable.
This truth hard to conceptualize, and can cause pain and anxiety in those who mistake a Fictive Midas for a friend.
And it only gets worse once the alienating membrane is noticed. Anyone who presses against it too hard or tries to puncture it, by appealing to the Fictive Midas’s humanity will find themselves repelled and expelled as a nobody. The character and the person peel apart, and the Fictive Midas keeps the fiction and discards the person, letting the reality drop over the horizon into the outer void. The Fictive Midas is uncannily unconcerned, incurious, almost hostilely indifferent to the divergences between the person and the character. The person finally knows — feels in their soul — the fact that they do not and never did exist to this stranger.
Ruthless people are said to leave a trail of blood. Heartbreakers leave trails of tears. Fictive Midases leave trails of emptiness.
Susan says we call it “ghosting” when a person exits a relationship without resolving it and providing any closure, because we are haunted by the absence. The absence is peculiarly present, much in the way the recently deceased are with us after they die.
Those of us who experience the world pluralistically — that is, those of us who feel that their sense of truth is only part of the bigger story and who want to complete our understandings of important things with the perspectives of others — experience the void created by Fictive Midases intensely painful, an aching phantom limb that cannot be treated, because it is a nonexistence, despite being a real part of us.
Pluralists tend to seek reconciliation with others as a means to reestablishment of shared friendship, or failing that, closure, so the relationship can lie peacefully in its grave.
The Fictive Midas, however has no such need, not because they feel none of the pain we feel, but because this pain is all they know. They dwell among their fictional characters, experience their fictional satisfactions and gratification, nurse their fictional grudges, all the while starving of loneliness, isolation and unreality.
Like Midas, they hoard their treasures, and deprive themselves of all nourishment and love.
Only their pain is something that intrudes from outside themselves, oppresses them from without, despite their attempts to defend themselves against it. But no matter how much they keep the cause of their pain — other people — outside, and the source of their happiness — their truth — inside, somehow the loneliness, alienation and envy gets inside and torments them, anyway.
It is tempting, when one is written off by a Fictive Midas or written out of their story when the story undergoes a heavy edit or rewrite, to retaliate and return the treatment — to write them out or write them off — and to make up a story where we have done this successfully and no longer care about them or what they did to us.
But this is only to become infected with fiction, and to succumb to the Fictive Midas’s condition ourselves.
And if we are honest, isn’t it true that we would never have fallen into a Fictive Midas’s snare, or worse, stayed there, if we weren’t already doing some significant fictionalizing ourselves? If not, why didn’t we notice the relationship we imagined ourselves to be in was largely imaginary?
It is better to be honest with ourselves and acknowledge the voids, while maintaining hope that reconciliation or closure might actually happen someday, if they find their way out of their isolating enworldment.
Meanwhile we can be more alert, and more aware of the reality of others, and more dedicated to reality, however elusive, so we can cultivate real mutual relationships with people capable of mutuality.
I have invented the abstract type of the Fictive Midas as a therapeutic effigy — a theoretic fiction of my own — as a general phenomenon onto which I can shift the weight of loss. I’m not going to reduce any person to this type, but I will regret the fact that this type can overtake a person and obscure and their personhood. It is a regrettable syndrome, not an archetype that manifests through regrettable people.
Fictive Midas is the superset containing not only my estranged friends, but the pandemic of ideologies sweeping the world, of epic stories where fictional identities oppress other fictional identities but then rise up and stage a revolution.
I believe John Milton knew this type:
Is this the Region, this the Soil, the Clime,
Said then the lost Arch Angel, this the seat
That we must change for Heav’n, this mournful gloom
For that celestial light? Be it so, since hee
Who now is Sovran can dispose and bid
What shall be right: fardest from him is best
Whom reason hath equald, force hath made supream
Above his equals. Farewel happy Fields
Where Joy for ever dwells: Hail horrours, hail
Infernal world, and thou profoundest Hell
Receive thy new Possessor: One who brings
A mind not to be chang’d by Place or Time.
The mind is its own place, and in it self
Can make a Heav’n of Hell, a Hell of Heav’n.
What matter where, if I be still the same,
And what I should be, all but less then hee
Whom Thunder hath made greater? Here at least
We shall be free; th’ Almighty hath not built
Here for his envy, will not drive us hence:
Here we may reign secure, and in my choyce
To reign is worth ambition though in Hell:
Better to reign in Hell, then serve in Heav’n.